I think amidst the recent incidents regarding the censorships of comic books and art publishing and even the internet, you’ve probably seen me share a few videos and articles and often commenting about how dangerous censorship can be. I feel it’s time I explain myself a little further. This is by no means a political article or commentary, or an educational journal. This is not an essay or a report. This is simply a citizen in his 20s expressing his worries and explaining how censorship can be a dangerous thing. So treat it like a blog post of some sort. I am by no means a sociopolitical expert and my views should be taken with a big pinch of salt and I only aim to hopefully spark some banter/conversation/discussion regarding this particular topic.
That said, the reason why I feel writing this is important is because I recall an incident regarding a call for regulation and censorship on websites some time last year - this year. I saw a friend commenting on it online saying “Censorship is good. Kids won’t be able to access pornographic websites.” This worries me because I don’t think he was the only person to have taken the call for regulation and censorship lightly or have misunderstood the new regulation. Approving and passing off policies without understanding them beforehand is dangerous and this can bite you in the butt should you one day realise that you have been deprived of accurate information.
To start things proper, basically, censorship, especially if loosely defined, is a dangerous thing. It can be used to shut the civilian voice, the voice of the population. It can be used to block you from accurate, non-bias, non-regulated or unfiltered news and ultimately render you a dumb and deaf citizen.
First and foremost, we should talk about how and why censorship can render you deaf, and how it renders you unable to make well-informed choices. Without raw, unfiltered news, you may not be able to make the best decision as a citizen. In any situation, it is best to know two sides of a coin before making a ‘head-or-tail’ call. Censorship might mean that you won’t receive information from independent news sources or independent individuals with pieces of information to share. In 2013, the MDA censorship/regulation call on bloggers who publish weekly articles on local issues raised several protests(see article: http://variety.com/2013/biz/news/singapore-puts-online-on-a-leash-1200567202/). To get a brief overview, this simplified description of the call was gotten off wiki: “Starting 1 June 2013 the Media Development Authority requires sites “that report regularly on issues relating to Singapore and have significant reach” among website visitors in Singapore to apply for individual licenses, which will be subject to annual renewal. These websitesmust then post a “performance bond” of 50,000 Singapore dollars and remove any objectionable content within 24 hours of receiving a government order”. Correct me if I’m wrong but this basically gives the authorities the power to remove any content they deem a political threat. “Objectionable content” - talk about loosely defined. This means ANY content they deem objectionable, no matter true or not. This might not be a new thing here; it seems voicing out “objectionable content” is regulated by an MDA license and confined to the space of Hong Lim Park. However, the internet was and has been an open space, with fewer regulations and bigger outreach and the nature of it makes it a little more difficult to put a leash on.
Would you want to be shut out from independent news? Or personal/public opinion or well-based statistics just because it is deemed to cause distaste and opposition?
Second is how censorship can render you dumb. The idea of ‘freedom of speech’ might be a false ideal, and the dangers it might cause to the sovereignty, authority and ultimately the mandate of the ruling body can always be debated. But again, loosely defined censorship and regulation on what you say can ultimately make us a “yes sir, no sir, I won’t speak” population. Check out how the arts scene’s voice is being clamped down and how local artists are rallying to counter this here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnOw2cMri3E
The idea of freedom of speech and the authority disproving every claim made against it might be a far-fetched utopian ideal and censorship and regulation is important to protect the ruling authority’s mandate. However, my problem is how it is so loosely defined, as if it can so easily be tweaked and twisted to the authority’s convenience. I’m not here to talk about law or the complicated processes behind policy-making but yes, policies and laws are often not black and white, but certainly it should be defined more accurately. Review these from time to time when you see it calls for reviewal, but to loosely define the policies with terms such as “objectionable content” means something acceptable today might not be acceptable tomorrow. Surely these things can be executed better? Sooner or later, saying something about how you don’t like the colours HDB paints it’s flats in or how there are too many ERP gantries can land you a job mopping the washrooms in Changi Prison(exaggerated but you get my drift) and you won’t be able to say anything about it because 1) you’ll be breaking the policy and 2) the policy was there all along and you never said anything about it.
If you aren’t already aware, regulation and censorship here has been alive and kicking. Bands and performing artists have to apply for licenses to perform in public, even going so far as to list and write down the lyrics of their songs(i giggle at the thought of the MDA reading love poetry written by 18 year old boys) and the content/script of their performances. No license, no go. Protests, rallies and public demonstrations are confined to Hong Lim Park and if I’m not mistaken has to go through MDA’s approval and licensing as well. As a young citizen who is concerned and interested in the arts and as someone who believes that art should not be regulated, it is depressing and worrying that the expression and opinion of artists are tightly regulated and that they are being closely watched and the freedom to what they create clamped down.
I repeat myself, regulation and censorship is, to certain extents, important to preserve the mandate and sovereignty of the authority. My only worry is how loosely defined these policies on regulation and censorship are, and how the result of this can cause tricky business for bloggers, artists or the common dude like you and me. That whatever you tweet about, or post on facebook(like blog posts like the one you’re reading) can be deemed “objectionable content” and be taken down so no one can read.Are you not worried about how much more you can be misinformed? And how much more you can be silenced?
Worried Small Fly
ps. so rusty.
pps. share if you want, so no there’ll be less people who say “censorship is good what, so kid’s can’t watch pornography”